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Fish, Corn, and Shellfish Chowders, Techniques and Facts
New England Clam Chowder
The word Chowder may have originated from the word chaudiere, which is a French word for a big heavy stew pot used by fishermen, and coastal cooks in Brittany.
There was a New England man named Benjamin Lynde who journaled that he had "dined on a fine chowdered cod". This was in 1732, and may be the first written words on the topic of chowder in North America. The idea of seafood in a chowder form has only grown to include many other seafood and vegetables, beans, potatoes and cheeses.
Long ago, and often still today, a chowder may have meant something like a thick concoction of fish or shellfish, some onions, maybe some salt pork, and sometimes milk. It seems that now we have much more opinionated "side taking" on exactly what is meant by a chowder.
Did you know that in Maine, back in 1939, there was a bill introduced to the legislature that tried to make adding tomatoes to clam chowder illegal? As you can see, some people take their clam chowder very seriously!
For example, on the one hand you have the Manhattan Clam Chowder fans, and purists. On the other hand, New England Clam chowder is a whole different thing, and has its own set of fans and purists. I grew up having more of the New England, creamy clam chowder, but I love both if they are made well. When it is cold outside, I have to say that a bowl of creamy New England Clam chowder, with bread like sourdough or a french baguette sounds very very good. Those two chowders aren't the only clam chowders however.
New England Clam Chowder This is a milk and or cream based chowder which traditionally includes potatoes with the clams. Other ingredients often include onions, salt port, bacon, flour or other thickening ingredients in a traditional New England Clam Chowder.
Outer Banks Clam Chowder Some people in the North Carolina outer banks regionhave a variation on clam chowder. This broth is clearer, and has a fairly large amount of pepper, including white, black and sometimes red. It also has chopped green onions and red pepper sauce. This sounds like one I need to try to make, as I love all kinds of pepper and pepper sauces.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder This clam chowder also has a clear broth. Not as popular as the New England and Manhattan clam chowder, it still is very good. Traditionally, this clearer chowder includes potatoes, onions, bacon, and quahogs which are another word for hard clams.
Depending where you are in Rhode Island, you may be served a red chowder with the tomato base, though no chunks of tomato. It does have potato, but no other vegetables like the Manhattan red chowder. They serve it with clamcakes at many restaurants and have for some time. So it depends on the person, what comes to mind when you ask them about Rhode Island Clam chowder. I like them both!
Variations on seafood chowders
New Jersey Clam Chowder This one is much newer, and just a spicer version really of the famed , red Manhattan style clam chowder.
Fish Chowder Sometimes you can substitute shredded fish for clams, and have an equally wonderful result. Onions, corn, cream and fish are the other ingredients generally speaking for fish chowders. Cod and Haddock are often used, but really so many would be equally good.
These examples of chowders here really just begin to touch on the many variations of the multitude of chowders out there. I love any chowder that is done well, and if it's a seafood chowder, I love the little oyster crackers go so well with it. Now I am inspired to go make a new chowder I haven't tried before.
What is your favorite chowder?
© 2010 Paula